Friday, May 29, 2009

NFOIC Summit 2009 more details from May 29

TO: NFOIC Summit 2009 registrants
FROM: Mary Treacy, Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
RE: One Week and Counting

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information has the welcome mat rolled out – and some last minute news for those who will be participating in the National Freedom of Information Coalition Summit 2009. Please share the relevant information with colleagues who are unable to make the pilgrimage to our fair city. Last week we sent a note to attendees who will be coming to Minneapolis from around the country. This note is for all the attendees now registered. There is always room for more Summit participations – if you have a colleague who might be interested, encourage him or her to come on down or, in our case, up!

News from the Summit:

* To ensure that attendees and others are up to speed on the program. MnCOGI has been interviewing Summit speakers in advance of the Summit. The result is a series of podcasts posted on the MnCOGI website. Click “podcasts” on the home page to hear recorded interviews with some of the Summit speakers as well as podcast interview with Minnesota open government heroes.

* We were concerned about how to open the Summit to those whose travel budgets have hit hard times. After some exploration we have arranged to have the full Summit livestreamed. Our partner organization is The Uptake, the folks who streamed the Republican National Convention in August 2008 and who, more recently, have opened the doors to the hearings re. the Franken/Coleman senatorial election. Those who cannot be present may participate in the Summit from their laptop - and we will have a record of the proceedings.

* In another partnership with local media we have arranged for access advocates to participate in a pre-Summit radio discussion on Wednesday, June 3. Truth to Tell, hosted by activist Andy Driscoll and carried on local station KFAI, takes a lead in opening the doors to government. Again, the discussion is streamed on the web.

* We hope all Summit attendees plan to attend the social hour on Friday, June 5, 5-6 p.m. NFOIC has generously suggested that we invite friends and supporters to this event – we have and many are coming. It’s our chance to thank them publicly and for them to meet our colleagues both locally and from other state coalitions. These folks have sustained MnCOGI as we struggled to meet the requirements of the NFOIC incentive grant in these tough times!

* Denise Meyers at NFOIC has done a great job of ferreting out information about parking. Logistics are attached. Lots of construction downtown Minneapolis, too. Check the MnCOGI website for the most recent info – parking is convenient but be prepared.

* Those registered for the Summit should have received a “Welcome to Minneapolis” over Memorial Day weekend. It has recently come to me that the list I was using was not complete. The notes were all about the Twin Cities – public transit, skyways, the Mall and, above all, the Mighty Mississippi. If you didn’t get that e-letter, it’s posted on the MnCOGI website – or just let me know and I’ll send you a copy.

We look forward to seeing you soon in Minneapolis. Remember to bring walking shows so you won’t miss the walkable sites of the city – the Mississippi, Nicollet Mall, the skyways, museums and so much more. Freedom of information favors a free spirit which assumes you get out and explore your environs.

NFOIC Summit 2009 participants notice May 22

On behalf of the Board of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, welcome to Minnesota and Minneapolis! We thought the best way to welcome visitors is to fill you in on some of the arrival logistics. Once you get to the hotel you can walk to everything, so we want you to have a soft landing at the Marriott. Some tips:

* Absolutely for sure take the Light Rail Transit (LRT) from the airport. The stop is in the terminal, just keep following the signs down, down, down. Depending on the terminal, you may take a quick rail shuttle. It is so easy and so cheap: $2.25 during rush hours, $1.75 at all other times. The taxis are pricey and there’s road construction everywhere so please, take my advice and take the train.

* Get off at Nicollet Mall and 5th St. – this is the second to the last stop. There will be obvious stop postings and announcements. Take a left (southward) down Nicollet Mall. You will get off on 5th St. and walk to 7th St. When you get to 7th, turn right. The Marriott is on your right between Nicollet Mall and Hennepin. It’s a subtle entrance.

* Here’s where it gets strange. The lobby of the Marriott is on the 6th floor. The lower floors are commercial with the hotel perched above. Just take the well-marked elevator to the lobby and you’re home free. The rooms are actually in a separate tower. It feels weird at first blush, but it’s actually very smart use of urban space.

* If you’re meeting someone, meet in that lobby. It’s one big open space with a restaurant, a couple of bars and lots of conversation pits. Great networking space.

* We will have stacks of local tourist materials – maps, coupon books, visitor guides, etc on display somewhere obvious. A “local” will be on hand to answer questions or point you in the right direction. I hope you’ve found the local guide prepared by MnCOGI Board member Robbie LaFleur on the NFOIC website. Thanks to the American Planning Association’s conference here in April, here is a 4-page pdf of Eat Local in the Twin Cities: A Rough Guide.

* You’re on the Skyway System when you’re at the Marriott. Lots of Skyway construction but it will get you anywhere downtown – department stores, Target, restaurants, even a couple of churches. You can live for months without going beyond the Skyway!

* Still, do go outside and walk or ride to the Mississippi at some point. The beautiful Mississippi and historic Minneapolis are just a few blocks away. If you’re short of time, you can hop virtually any bus on the Mall (ask if they “cross the river”) For $.75 you can ride across one of the bridges, take a stroll along the river. With your transfer that you remembered to get while boarding, you can ride the bus back to the Marriott. The walk along the Mississippi is not to be missed.

If you have ANY questions, please drop me a note. We’re delighted you’re coming. We’re also proud of Minneapolis and Minnesota. BTW it’s been fairly cool, but the weather may be hot two weeks from now. Still, bring a light sweater or jacket. The evenings can still be cool – beautiful, but sometimes cool.

Best, Mary Treacy, Executive Director
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

David Gillette’s on data practices

This is David Gillette’s Almanac cartoon – a fun way to learn about data practices in Minnesota.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vendor Evaluation Reports Online

Many times web access is a vast improvement over paper sitting on shelves - not only for sheer accessibility, but in terms of how the information can be used. The Department of Administration has just released one of those vast improvements to a report that was mandated by the Legislature several years ago. Minnesota Statutes 16C.08, subd. 4(c), requires that upon completion of a contract over $50,000, agencies submit a one-page report, summarizing the purpose of the contract, stating the amount spent on the contract, and including a written performance evaluation of the work done under the contract. Previously, those reports were available only in print, in the Library, in the binders shown in the image to the left. Now it is possible to learn of agencies' experiences with various vendors by searching online. Reports since March 1, 2009, have been posted, will be updated weekly, and can be searched by agency or vendor name. This is great progress.

Robbie LaFleur (originally published on the Legislative Reference Library website)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Freedom of Information Coalition Summit

Freedom of Information Coalition Summit
June 5-6
Minneapolis Marriott City Center

Friday at noon, we begin the conference with a luncheon and the ever-popular FOI Salon, followed that afternoon by two panels on Coalition Sustainability.

Saturday, we'll have panels on FOI & Infrastructure, Financial Transparency, and FOI as Civic Education. At Saturday's luncheon, for our keynote address we're proud to present Paul Anger, vice president and editor of the Detroit Free Press.

For further information:

** added update - students can now attend for free (if they forego lunch)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrong...not correct... A line-by-line review

See the posting below for Don Gemberling's thoughts on the recently-released report, Accessing Government: How difficult is it? Comments on specific lines and sections can be found in this annotated copy. His comments are astute, even if his handwriting is sometimes cryptic!

Accessing Government: A copy with Don's Comments

Robbie LaFleur